EU Expects 46% to Have at Least 1 COVID Vaccine Dose by End of Month

Leaders of the European Union (EU) gathered for a two-day summit in Brussels to discuss ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts and helping to ensure equitable access to the vaccine in order to "increase global vaccine production capacities in order to meet global needs."

Vaccinations have picked up in Europe after a slow start compared to the U.S. or the U.K. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, estimated that about 300 million vaccine doses will be delivered to the region by the end of May, providing at least the first dose to 46 percent of the 450 million adult population, the Associated Press reported.

EU leaders also agreed to donate 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ursula von der Leyen Vaccine Data
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the second day of the EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels on May 25, 2021. Leyen shared data suggesting that 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be delivered in the EU by the end of May, providing at least the first dose to 46 percent of the population. Olivier Matthys/AFP via Getty Images

Leaders also called "for work to be stepped up to ensure global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines" and reiterated their support for the U.N.-backed COVAX program. COVAX aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots for low-and middle-income countries.

The program suffered a major setback last week when its biggest supplier, the Serum Institute of India, announced it would likely not export any more vaccines until the end of the year due to the COVID-19 crisis on the subcontinent.

But as vaccination campaigns continue to progress in the Western world, poorer countries are struggling to acquire supplies. During a health summit in Rome last week, Italian Premier Mario Draghi said that nearly 1.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered in over 180 countries worldwide. Yet only 0.3 percent were in low-income countries, while richer countries administered around 85 percent.

In addition to the donation of shots, leaders pledged to help countries in need to develop vaccine production locally.

It was unclear which vaccines from the EU's portfolio would be donated. Coronavirus vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc's drug regulator, include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The agreement came after the U.S. said earlier this month it will share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world on top of a prior commitment to share about 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

Leaders also welcomed the compromise found last week with European Union legislators for launching COVID-19 certificates before the height of the summer holiday season, a move aimed at boosting travel and tourism following the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU plans to have the trans-border passes up and running by July 1. They will be delivered to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated, as well as those who tested negative for the virus or have proof they recovered from COVID-19, and should serve to avoid quarantines and more testing upon arrival.

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European Union Meeting Brussels
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a roundtable meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on May 25, 2021. European Union leaders gathered for a second day to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and to assess new measures on how to meet targets to become climate-neutral by mid-century. John Thys/Pool via AP